- Associated Press - Sunday, December 7, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Relatives of an 18-year-old who was killed in a house fire last month were outraged to receive a more than $16,064 bill from Topeka for tearing down the damaged structure.

Morgan Duncan’s family members had a memorial service for the 18-year-old Saturday afternoon, The Topeka Capital-.Journal (https://bit.ly/1w2cJSo) reports. While the mother and grandparents were preparing to say their final goodbyes, they received the bill.

“PAYMENT IS DUE WITHIN 30 DAYS,” the bill said.

The city of Topeka told Duncan’s mother, Cheri Duncan, she could make payments. But Duncan’s grandmother, Mary Johnson, says her daughter didn’t have homeowner’s insurance and probably won’t be able to handle even a small monthly payment.

“It has been a nightmare,” Johnson said.

Cheri and Morgan Duncan were on a fixed income of about $1,400 per month before the fire, said Johnson, who manages her daughter’s Social Security payments. Morgan Duncan’s father died when she was a small child. With Morgan Duncan’s death, Cheri Duncan’s income will drop to about $700 per month.

“(Cheri) lost absolutely everything she had, including her daughter,” Johnson said. “She’s living with her older daughter now.”

The statement of charges from the city shows the demolition contractor’s cost as $15,314.40 and an administrative fee of $750, for a total cost of $16,064.40. That is nearly half of the 2014 appraised value of $35,440.

“City regulation requires us to send notice by mail and post notice on the property before emergency demolition,” said Suzie Gilbert, the city’s communications and marketing director. “In this case, it was done on the same day.”

The date of the bill, issued to Cheri Duncan, was Dec. 2, just four days before Morgan Duncan’s memorial service.

“The notice was sent to the property owner’s registered address, which is in Ozawkie,” Gilbert said. “Because the structure was in imminent danger of collapse, it had to come down that day. The city is not licensed to do demolition so the service was contracted out to a licensed demolition contractor.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com


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